Viewpoint: it’s not ‘just asthma’

Sue McNulty says it’s time to shift the tide of complacency that surrounds asthma care

With the publication of the National Review of Asthma Deaths (NRAD) last month there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind about the poor state of asthma care in the UK.   The Why asthma still kills review found that in almost half (46 per cent) of the cases in which someone with asthma died, the death could have been avoided if the person’s asthma had been better managed in the year before their demise.  The task ahead is to connect with those patients living with asthma that isn’t under control, who aren’t using their inhalers correctly, don’t have an action plan, and who are on the wrong medication.

The review suggested that just 16 per cent of those who died received care that reflected good practice. Physiotherapists have a key part to play in advising patients with poorly-controlled asthma to go back to their GP or practice nurse to have their asthma reviewed.  They could also advise the patient to call the Asthma UK helpline and speak to one of our asthma nurses.

It’s really important that a culture is created among healthcare professionals that coughing and waking at night because of asthma is not an acceptable norm.   The current medications available, taken in the correct way, should enable the majority of people with asthma to be symptom free.

If you see people using their reliever inhaler (usually blue), please take a moment to ask how well controlled their asthma is.   Ask if they’re aware that using the reliever more than three times a week is a sign there asthma may not be well controlled and refer them to their usual healthcare professional for an asthma review.

The interviews for NRAD were carried out by some of the leading respiratory clinicians in the UK and their reflections on this experience are enlightening.  It’s time to challenge the ‘it’s just asthma’ notion because asthma is clearly still a killer.

To help prevent more asthma deaths we’ve created a toolkit for healthcare professionals. To download copies of the toolkit, visit Asthma UK and search for ‘toolkit’. Why asthma still kills - Asthma UK helpine: 0800 121 6244.

Sue McNulty is healthcare professional relationship manager, Asthma UK

Frontline Staff

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